August 21, 2016

Court Day

August 4th was a very special day in our family’s life.  While Estela was placed with us on September 29th and she has known us as mama and papa ever since, we were not a legally recognized family until our court date.  This last year has often had us feeling very vulnerable throughout the adoption process, so it was a great relief to know that we would be a forever family.  Kevin was working in Minnesota on our court date, so it was just Estela and I and our lawyer.  We were able to finalize with another adoptive family who has been a special gift to us on this journey.

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The courthouse is the white building on the left.

Adoption Day Iphone (13)

Talking with Papa before court.

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This day was filled with waiting, waiting and more waiting. 

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We enjoyed reading the book, “I love my dad because…”

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We are family!

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Kisses and a mural!

During the hearing, I was asked to share my “palabras” or words on how the transition has been to having Estela as a part of our family.  I read the following words, which Kevin and I prepared in advance.  I teared up and had to take breaks as I read these important words.  Estela did not seem too concerned as she played with her play dough.


Your honor,

First and foremost my husband and I want to thank for the the great opportunity and responsibility that you have granted to us in the caring for and nurturing of Estela Maryuri Lane Zonnefeld.  Our lives were forever changed for the better on September 29, 2015 when we received a call from Mi Familia that our little girl was waiting for us.  At the center in Managua, Estela soon feel asleep peacefully in my arms and would soon come to call us “mamita” y “papito.”  She has fit so perfectly into our family as if she was always here with her father and I.  We are so thrilled that we will get to spend each and every day of our lives together as a family.  We cannot imagine our lives without this precious little girl.  We are saddened by the difficulties that she faced before joining our family and are committed to giving her the tools to heal and become whole.

We have now lived in the beautiful country of Nicaragua for almost five years and are excited to pass on the culture, history and traditions of the country of lakes and volcanoes to our daughter.  We also look forward to continuing the relationships we have developed while living in Nicaragua as we will be visiting Estela's home country and living here again in the future.  Estela is first and foremost a resilient and strong, young, Nicaraguan, a caring and loving child, who though has faced much diversity shows us so much hope for the future.  We thank you for entrusting us with this little miracle, our daughter, Estela, Maryuri Lane Zonnefeld.


Su honor,

Sobre todo, mi esposo y yo queremos agradecer usted por la gran oportunidad y responsabilidad que ha otorgado a nosotros en el cuidado y crianza de Estela Maryuri Wren Zonnefeld. Nuestras vidas cambiaron para siempre y para el mejor el 29 de septiembre de 2015 cuando recibimos una llamada de Mi Familia donde ellas nos dijeron que tenían una hija para nosotros. Pronto, en el centro de Managua, Estela se durmió tranquilamente en mis brazos y días después comenzó de llamarnos mamita y papito. Ella se encaja tan perfectamente en nuestra familia como si ella siempre estuvo aquí con su padre y yo. Estamos muy emocionados de que podemos pasar a cada día juntos como una familia. No podemos imaginar nuestras vidas sin esta preciosa niña. Estamos entristecidos por las dificultades que ella tenía que enfrentar antes de unirse a nuestra familia y nos comprometemos a darle las herramientas para sanar y convertirse en integral.

Ahora hemos vivido en el bello país de Nicaragua por cinco años y estamos muy contentos de compartir la cultura, historia y tradiciones del país de lagos y volcanes a nuestra hija. También esperamos seguir con las amistades que hemos desarrollado al mismo tiempo viviendo en Nicaragua, visitaremos el país con Estela y esperamos que podamos vivir aquí otra vez en el futuro. Ante todo, Estela es una niña resiliente y fuerte, joven, nicaragüense, un niña cariñosa y amorosa, que aunque ha enfrentado mucha dificultad, nos muestra tanta esperanza para el futuro. Gracias por confiar en nosotros esta pequeña milagro, nuestra hija, Estela, Maryuri Wren Zonnefeld.

August 15, 2016

Dessert Class

We have learned a whole new set of culinary skills while living in Nicaragua.  From tortilla making to cheese making, to learning several ways to prepare a plantain, we are better cooks than we were when we came.  We always tell Nicaraguans that we did not enjoy eating meat until we came here, the way that it is prepared and cooked, mostly in citric juices, with a lot of garlic, is absolutely scrumptious.


When getting together with friends here, we generally offer to bring the dessert.  While there are exceptions, most of our Nicaraguan friends do not know how to turn on or use their ovens.  They use the stovetop all day long, cooking their beans or preparing gallo pinto, however their ovens are usually utilized for storage.  Our friends have fallen in love with all things sweet – brownies, chocolate chip cookies, almond tart and cheesecake.


When we told our friend Maria that we were planning to relocate back to Minnesota, she told us that she wanted to learn how to make brownies before we left.  This goal turned into a full day of baking.  I (Cassie) brought the ingredients, recipes cards written out in Spanish and then directed the ladies to take charge of their recipe.  They learned how to mix dries and wets separately, how to use a hand-mixer and how to grease a pan.  At the end of the day, after my hand was swollen and red from being stung by a wasp, we had three delicious desserts to enjoy.  Maria made chocolate chip cookies, Gretel made everything cookies and Keyling made brownies.

August 9, 2016

Ensalada de Repollo


When ordering almost any traditional Nicaraguan dish one has the option to get a side of repollo.  Repollo is a cabbage slaw, made with a variety of vegetables.  It can be a combination of whatever you might have on hand - carrots, peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and jalapeños along with the shredded cabbage.  Salt and vinegar are also added to the mix creating a delicious side salad.  For five years, I (Cassie) always asked for extra repollo when I was buying tajadas (plantain chips) or baho, but I never thought to make it at home.  However, last month I headed out to the local market and bought a wooden grater and I have been making my own repollo ever since.


Last week some friends stopped over around dinner time and my first thought was that I had nothing to serve them.  But then I remembered that I had a big batch of repollo in the fridge.  I put that over tajadas and cuajada (cheese) with chile and served them dinner.  It must have been okay because one of my friend’s told me that later that night when she was in bed, she was dreaming of another plate filled with my repollo.

Ensalada de Repollo

  • 1 shredded cabbage
  • 5-6 diced roma tomatoes
  • 1-2 grated carrots
  • 1 large shredded onion
  • 1 shredded or finely diced green pepper
  • 1 head of garlic finely chopped
  • As many jalapeños as you want

Mix all of the ingredients together and toss with vinegar and salt.  Repollo is best eaten after the flavors have had a day to meld together in your refrigerator!


August 4, 2016

A Letter To Estela On Our Adoption Day


For many years, your mom and I have been thinking and dreaming of the day that we would meet you.  One of the first conversations that we ever had way back in 2005, when we first met, was about the fact that someday we both hoped we would have the opportunity to grow our family through adoption. We did not know when, and we did not know where, we did not even know at that point that we would be together, but we were both excited about this dream and hope.


Soon we were to be married. Your Dutch father and Swedish, British, Irish, Dutch and New Zealandish mother tied the knot on August 18th, 2007.  Since that day we have dreamed a lot about you.  We thought about when we would first hold you in our arms and imagined the joys we would and will share together.  You joining us for this journey has truly been a dream come true and our hearts both melted when you first said the words mama and papito.  Your constant smile, your thoughtful imagination and resilient spirit have been a blessing and example for your mom and I.


Your joyous personality has been a constant in our family and for that we are so thankful.  To see your smile when you literally ate your first piece of gum, or how you jump for joy every morning for a glass of leche and your banano with peanut butter.  For your love for Oso Pardo and your sense of wonder and desire to know, exhibited in your beloved question of ¿porque?  Through this past year you have been constantly bringing smiles to our faces and we are more happy than ever to say without reservation that we are yours and you are ours.


You have showed us what it means to persevere, to be resilient and empathic. You showed strength through difficulty and continue to show love and gozo to the world around you. Through the joys you have been there with a smile on your face; when you swam across the pool for the first time without your floaties and declared yourself a fish, when you wiped moms tears away and told her everything was okay, the way that you run to greet me when I get home from work, through the singing of Edelweiss and Deep Sea and all the other tunes you have learned in your deep singing voice and through all the waiting you have been there telling your mom and I that “¡no hay nada que Dios no puede hacer!”


For all that and for so much more we want to say thank you Estela.  Thank you for making our lives joy filled and lighter.  Thank you for your smile and grace.  Thank you for your care and concern and thank you for liking onions.


We are so thankful to have shared the last ten months with you in Nicaragua and we look forward to the many trips and adventures that we will continue to share with you in your home country.  Together we will climb your volcanoes, we will swim in your lagunas, we will eat at your favorite comedors, we will ride the city buses and venture into the market hand in hand.  We are so thankful that we have had the opportunity to live in your beautiful country for the past five years and make kindred friends with your pueblo.  We want to celebrate your culture and your heritage with you as we can now proudly say that we are a Dutch, Swedish, British, Irish, Kiwi and Nicaraguan family.


You can look forward to piñatas for your birthday and getting your face smashed into your postre which we might even serve with Coco-Cola.  You can look forward to your dad trying to perfect gallo pinto and your mom doing everything possible with plantains, coconuts and the fresh fruits of Nicaragua.  We will celebrate your struggle for freedom and your independence, your liberation and your holy days.  We will light fireworks on Christmas-eve and wait for the Son to rise the next morning.  We also will share with you the Lakes of Minnesota, the corn fields of Iowa, your great-great-grandmother Gert's secret almond tart recipe and your great-grandpa Edwall's secret taffy recipe (as long as the secret stays in the family!)


And so we want to say Estela, on this very special day, welcome to this family, to our family, to your family, officially.  You are a special part of us and we are so thankful that we have found each other.  Things may not always be perfect, your papito will never make tortillas like the lady across the street and he will never get his Spanish down perfectly, your mom will not stop you from eating pineapple at night or keep you from playing in the rain.  We may never know, little one, more about your biological family, though we will do whatever we can to help you get the answers that you need.  We promise to always love and support you in the ups and downs, in your dreams and lives adventures.


We will always celebrate you.  We will take joy in who you are, who you are becoming, you are our little Nicaragüita, our little daughter.  What we do know and can say to you without reservation is that you are precious and that our family would not have been just right without you.  Dreams come true, we’re together!


We love you SO MUCH!  Te amamos, MUCHO!

Your Mamita y Papito